Major national cable providers in the US are to set to sign a deal to keep out child porn.
Once the deal with with National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is inked, the Center can direct any cable provider to pull down any content found offensive.
It will provide each cable company with a list of Web site addresses that they believe contain child porn. The cable companies will then, as per the agreement, scrub the content from their servers.
A press release on the agreement stated: Cable operators that bring Internet service to 87 percent of homes in the United States will take additional voluntary measures to limit the distribution of child pornography on the Internet under an agreement announced today among the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).
Under the unprecedented industry-wide agreement, all cable operators represented on NCTA's Board of Directors have agreed to help reduce the proliferation of child pornography by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NCMEC. This commitment represents the largest number of broadband subscribers protected by the terms of the MOU as these operators offer broadband Internet service to more than 112 million homes.
"Building on our strong commitment to online safety, the cable industry wants to help combat child pornography and exploitation," said Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO, NCTA. "By signing the NCMEC MOU, cable Internet service providers are reaffirming their strong commitment to online safety and Internet literacy for all American families."
"We are deeply grateful for this industry-wide attack on child pornography," said Ernie Allen, President & CEO, NCMEC. "It is not possible to arrest and prosecute every offender. We must be creative and build new public-private partnerships to address this insidious problem more effectively. Today's announcement represents a bold step forward."
On behalf of NAAG and the 45 Attorneys General who have signed a letter in support of the NCTA-NCMEC MOU, Rhode Island Attorney General and NAAG President Patrick C. Lynch commended NCMEC and NCTA on the agreement.
"Although NCMEC has recently signed similar agreements with individual companies, this agreement is notable as the first such agreement NCMEC has reached with an entire sector of the nation's communications industry," Lynch wrote. "The NCTA agreement with NCMEC will limit the ability of predators to store and exchange images of exploitation of those who are, by definition, among the more vulnerable in society. We congratulate the cable industry for taking a strong stand in support of child safety."
Specifically, the cable companies have agreed to use NCMEC's list of active websites identified as containing child pornography, to ensure that no such site is hosted on servers owned or controlled by those companies. The companies will also report these instances to NCMEC's CyberTipline and where appropriate revise their policies around other potential sources of child pornography, such as, for example, newsgroups.
The agreement with NCMEC will provide cable broadband service providers with an invaluable source of information to help them enforce their terms of service, all of which forbid the hosting of such illegal materials on their servers. The information provided by NCMEC to cable service providers will also help them identify instances of child pornography, facilitating their reporting of such material to NCMEC as required by federal law. This in turn enables NCMEC to refer these cases to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution.
NCTA's agreement with NCMEC is the latest milestone in cable's efforts to ensure online safety and promote Internet literacy for all families and Internet users. When NCTA launched its PointSmartClickSafe online safety initiative in June 2007, cable ISPs pledged in a code of conduct to support law enforcement in its efforts to ensure online safety for American families, the press release said.
The Parent-Teacher Association has welcomed the move as a significant step towards eliminating child pornography on the Internet. "The sexual exploitation of children has dire physical and emotional consequences for children, their families and communities involved. By working in tandem with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), these companies will help to ensure that no website that contains child pornography is hosted on servers owned or controlled by those companies. NCMEC continues to be a strong leader in the protection of children. Bringing together Internet service providers, law enforcement, child-focused organizations, and government agencies, they are leading the efforts to put an end to the deplorable practices. We are proud to partner with NCTA, Cable in the Classroom, and NCMEC and each organization's efforts to ensure that the Internet is a safe and educationally rich environment for children and adults alike."
But there are some who grumble. They charge that kiddie porn is being used as a pretext to justify censorship, invasion of privacy, and the general evisceration of civil liberties, as happens with illegal drugs and terrorism.
"This kind of takedown power should not be given to a private, unaccountable group. Both the FBI and DHS/US Customs already manage databases of enabling their agents to digitally fingerprint such content. As much as I dislike the FBI, they are at least (occasionally) held accountable. Journalists can submit Freedom Of Information Act requests, and the heads of the agency can be hauled in front of a congressional committee. NCMEC, on the other hand, is not subject to an FOIA request," says Chris Soghoian writing on CNET News.com.